Bisa Butler

She // Her // Hers

[ID: Bisa, an African American woman with long cascading locs, dark lipstick, and a bright printed dress stands in front of her quilt with an equally colorful portrait of an African woman with short, parted hair, hoop earrings, and a halter made of cowrie shells.]

Portrait Quilter
West Orange, NJ
2021 USA Fellow

This award was generously supported by the Windgate Foundation.

Bisa Butler was born to educators in Orange, NJ, the youngest of four children. Butler earned a BFA from Howard University, where she refined her natural talents under the tutelage of lecturers such as Elizabeth Catlett, Jeff Donaldson, and Ernie Barnes. She later began to experiment with fabric as a medium and collage technique. During graduate studies at Montclair State University, where she earned her MA in 2005, she took a Fiber Arts class and had an artistic epiphany, finally realizing how to express her art by combining painting and drawing skills with sewing.

Butler worked as a high school art teacher for ten years in Newark Public Schools and for three years at Columbia High School in Maplewood, NJ. Her work has been acquired by the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO, the Orlando Museum of Art in Florida, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and many other public and private collectors. In the fall of 2020, a solo exhibition of her work opened at the Art Institute of Chicago, the second stop of a traveling exhibit that began at the Katonah Museum of Art in Katonah, NY; her work was concurrently featured as part of a group show at the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio. Butler is represented by Claire Oliver Gallery in New York.

Portrait photo by John Butler.
  • Artwork by Bisa Butler
    Asantewa, 2020. Cotton, silk, wool, and velvet quilted and appliquéd, dimensions 52 × 88 inches.
    [ID: An African American woman sits back in a sleeved Victorian dress with black flowers in her hair, backdropped by a red geometric pattern. She gazes concernedly, her skin depicted with magenta, purple, teal, and yellow and her attire with vibrant, clashing patterns.]
  • Artwork by Bisa Butler
    Forever, 2020. Cotton, silk, wool, and velvet quilted and appliquéd, dimensions 42 × 86 inches.
    [ID: Chadwick Boseman, a bearded African American man with mid-length hair, stands regally, hands clasped, gazing forward. His skin is depicted with blues, greens, reds, and yellows, his hair is split down the middle between thick black and lime green coils, and he wears a printed red shawl draped over layered, clashing patterns. Green palms, black mountains, and an orange sky fill the background. A green arch forms over the mountains and above Boseman.]
  • Artwork by Bisa Butler
    Broom Jumpers, 2019. Cotton, wool, silk and velvet quilted and appliquéd, dimensions 98 × 58 inches.
    [ID: A 1930s African American couple poses against a red and pink floral patterned background. Their attire is an array of vibrant clashing pink, yellow, teal, purple, orange, and blue patterns. The man wears a suit and holds a newsboy cap. His magenta pants have a print of giant diamond rings and his skin is depicted with red and teal. The woman wears a black sleeved dress with a big yellow leaf pattern, wide brim hat, and holds a handbag. Her skin is depicted with blue and purple.]
Artwork by Bisa Butler Artwork by Bisa Butler Artwork by Bisa Butler